Information on canine parvovirus in puppies and adult dogs with parvo.
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- What is Parvovirus?
- What Causes Parvovirus?
- Diagnosing Parvovirus
- Help for Parvovirus
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What is Parvovirus?
Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral infection that affects dogs of any age, breed or sex. This virus first appeared in 1978.
As a result of that outbreak, there was a widespread epidemic. Animals of all ages were infected and died. No vaccines for the virus existed at the time. The virus has since changed and other strains have appeared.
Parvo can manifest itself in three ways – intestinal, cardiac and asymptomatic. It attacks the intestines and causes sloughing of the cells that line the inner layers of the intestinal tract. The virus can attack the heart muscle and result in death. Although the cardiac form of is severe, it is less common and occurs mostly in young puppies less than 8 weeks old.
Older pets are also more susceptible to parvovirus infection. Certain dog breeds are at higher risk, including Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds and Pit Bulls. If left untreated, parvovirus can lead to serious health complications such as a weakened immune system, congestive heart failure and fluid in the lungs.
What Causes Parvovirus?
Parvovirus is found in feces and spread through direct transmission of viral particles. When a dog sniffs where another dog has defecated, the virus is transmitted easily. It may also be transmitted indirectly through clothing, bedding, food bowls and kennel floors.
This virus is resistant to extreme temperatures and has the ability to survive in hot or cold conditions. A dog can transmit the virus as long as three weeks after it becomes infected. The virus can linger in the environment for as long as six months. Asymptomatic transmission, when the animal shows no signs of being sick, is possible.
Parvo is usually spread from dog to dog by direct contact or by contact with infected feces. Dog parks, dog shows, kennels, pet shops are risky situations for unvaccinated dogs.
People can unknowingly contribute to the spread of the disease by tracking fecal matter on their shoes. Parvo can withstand a wide range of temperatures and live outside the animal for months. Because of this, it’s extremely tough to kill the virus. That’s why it’s so important to fully vaccinate dogs.
The diagnosis of parvovirus is based on the symptoms, a complete physical examination and review of the pet’s medical history. A fecal Parvo (ELISA) test and other diagnostic tests, such as blood tests and x-rays, can confirm the diagnosis.
Symptoms and signs of parvovirus
The common symptoms and signs of parvovirus include:
- Loss of appetite
When the disease worsens, vomit and diarrhea contain blood. The puppy may go into shock, experience breathing difficulties, low body temperature and even death.
Treatment for Parvovirus
Treatment involves preventing secondary infections and controlling symptoms. Mild episodes of may be treated with early fluid therapy and antibiotics. Hospitalization is usually required when intravenous fluids, anti-vomiting and pain medications are administered.
Vaccinate your puppy at 6 to 8 weeks old, then every 3 to 4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. This is extremely effective at providing immunity against infection. Check with your vet about follow-up vaccines, as they may range from yearly to every three years.
As a pet owner, make sure you practice good sanitation measures. Minimize your pet’s contact with other dogs’ feces and disinfecting their sleeping areas, bowls and toys.
More Information on Parvovirus
Tips to Prevent Parvovirus
Certain precautions can be taken, including:
- Avoid exposing your puppy to places such as dog parks and pet stores, where infected dogs may frequent, or where dog poop is accessible.
- Keep your puppy away from unvaccinated puppies and dogs. Only allow him to interact with dogs that you are sure have been vaccinated.
- If your puppy has developed parvovirus, keep him isolated from other dogs.
- Maintain good hygiene and cleanliness for both you and your pet by picking up feces daily.
- Disinfect food and water bowls as well as paved areas, your pet’s sleeping environment and bedding regularly
- Inspect your pet's stool to check for any abnormalities
- Wash your hands thoroughly after handling dogs